The science fiction podcasts every nerd should listen to | Popular Science
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The science fiction podcasts every nerd should listen to

To help you ignore your dystopian reality.

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Put some science fiction in your ears

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This post has been updated, and will probably be updated again, because that's how best-of lists should work.

I love podcasts, you love podcasts, your grandma probably loves podcasts. Looking for some science fiction you can enjoy while your eyeballs do stuff that isn't reading? Great. Read on. If you're looking for some science fact podcasts instead, we've got you covered.

Limetown

Remember that time when everything on the radio wanted to be "Serial"? Limetown got it right. Follow a reporter as she revisits the mysterious disappearance of every inhabitant in Limetown, an idyllic little community built around a mysterious scientific research facility. The mind-melting sci-fi in Limetown comes in on such a slow burn that a lot of people don't realize they're listening to a fictional story until a few episodes in, which makes it feel a lot more compelling than a story that's schlocky right out the gate. Don't worry: You'll be biting your nails and making tinfoil hats by the time you get to the final episode.

Great if you enjoy: Stranger Things, Eureka, Wayward Pines, Serial

The Message

The first offering from General Electric's Podcast Theater was a smash hit: It brought us along for the ride as a quirky cryptography podcaster documented attempts to translate a mysterious alien message. I can't say the plot gripped me quite as much as Limetown's, but it's perfect for marathoning during a car trip—you can listen to the entire thing in a couple hours.

Great if you enjoy: Serial, War of the Worlds, Arrival

ars PARADOXICA

Paradoxica follows the adventures of accidental time traveler Dr. Sally Grissom. While Grissom's audio diaries are used liberally to narrate the plot, the show also uses more traditional radio drama scenes—so it feels more like watching a movie than listening to a newsy podcast. It feels appropriately old-time-radio-y, and gets bonus points for dealing with issues like mental health and sexuality right along with discussions of quantum mechanics. The show is just about wrapping up, but we're already psyched for the production group's upcoming interstellar adventure: StarTripper.

Great if you enjoy: '—All You Zombies—', Timeline, Outlander, Doctor Who, Primer

LifeAfter

The second show from General Electric's Podcast Theater is sad and intriguing. Follow a man as he tries to cope with his wife's sudden death, hooked on and haunted by her audio posts on social media. Surely it's about to get creepy.

Great if you enjoy: Her, Black Mirror, The Black Tapes

The Truth

These "movies for your ears" (a.k.a. pretty standard, traditional radio drama stories in small bites) aren't always sci-fi. But hey, variety is the spice of life. If you can't stomach the thought of experiencing some fantasy or drama or comedy or what have you, at least give the episode "Voyager Found" a listen. This article from the Public Radio Exchange offers up episode suggestions based on Black Mirror episodes, so we'd recommend giving those a whirl, too.

Great if you enjoy: Every episode is different, so just give it a shot if you like listening to things

Flash Forward

Half science, half fiction: Every week, host Rose Eveleth picks a fictional future and has real experts explain how it might work. What if all drugs were made legal? What if antibiotics stopped working? What if the internet suddenly disappeared?

Great if you enjoy: Popular Science (lol)

The Drabblecast Audio Fiction Podcast

It's what it says on the tin: Short stories, and lots of 'em. Load up a whole bunch for your next car trip. You're welcome.

Great if you enjoy: Every episode is different, so just give it a shot if you like listening to things

The Bright Sessions

Listen in on the recordings of Dr. Bright, a therapist who provides mental health services for the "strange and unusual". But does she have a hidden agenda pushing her to assemble a gang of super-powered patients? Duh.

Great if you enjoy: Jessica Jones, Heroes, ars PARADOXICA

TANIS

TANIS follows a podcast host as he tries to track down a "game" with no internet trail. In pursuing what he thinks might be one modernity's last true mysteries—an easter egg hidden in Craigslist posts and obscure works of science fiction—he stumbles across a world that bridges the gap between sci-fi and fantasy. There's definitely some weird stuff going down, but is 'magic' to blame? Maybe not. And in any case, the constant online sleuthing give this show a tech nerd bent.

Great if you enjoy: Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Ready Player One

RABBITS

The podcast geniuses behind TANIS have a new offering that's more firmly set in the realm of science fiction. It takes place within the same universe as the team's other NPR-like shows, but this one follows host Carly Parker as she attempts to find her missing friend Yumiko—who seems to have vanished while playing the most complex alternate reality game of all time.

Great if you enjoy: Ready Player One, Mr. Robot, Dark City

The Darkest Night

Okay, so The Darkest Night bills itself as a horror podcast—and it's admittedly very unsettling (and, fair warning, gory/disturbing in a way that is not fit for kiddos). But it's also science fiction: the show is built on the premise that a high-tech gizmo can show researchers the last thing a corpse experienced before dying. There are also a lot of mind control drugs and stuff. And creepy experiments. So while you definitely shouldn't listen to this one if you're not a fan of horror, it's perfect for people who love both genres. Also, it's narrated by Lee Pace. Need we say more?

Great if you enjoy: r/NoSleep, The X-Files, The dulcet tones of Lee Pace cooing terrible nothings in your ears—binaurally

Archive 81

What happened to Dan Powell? Archive 81 also borders on horror/fantasy, but its treatment of alternate dimensions and the like earns it a spot on our sci-fi list. Bonus: If you make it through the first two seasons, you get to enjoy a delightful old-school radio drama-style bonus episode. It's the bee's knees. The third season is just kicking off now, so you'd better catch up.

Great if you enjoy: The X-Files, The Bright Sessions, The Black Tapes

Homecoming

This Gimlet Media show has an incredible cast—Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer, to name just a few regulars. It deals with the ethical quandaries of a woman helping to oversee a government medical experiment, and the format does a great job of toying with narrator reliability. Are the people you're hearing well-intentioned, or are they lying to themselves and one another? Do they even remember the events they're supposed to be guiding us through?

Great if you enjoy: Shutter Island, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Bright Sessions

Sandra

Gimlet's latest sci-fi offering stars Alia Shawkat as a new employee at an Apple-esque company, where she contributes to the collective brainpower of "Sandra"—an artificially intelligent digital assistant. The show does a great job of capturing both the exhilarating promise and the dark, slippery downsides of an ever-present, all-knowing voice in your ear. And the ads, which were written specifically for the show, are perfectly delightful.

Great if you enjoy: Her, Silicon Valley, The Circle

Within the Wires

Welcome to Night Vale was one of the first heavy hitters on the podcast audio drama scene, but the group's second show deserves your attention, too. The first season is presented in the form of an audio course on full body relaxation (brought to you by the mysterious "Institute") and the second features audio guide tours through a museum. It's basically like listening to found audio from another universe, and the experience of slowly piecing together a narrative in the weirdness is extremely rewarding.

Great if you enjoy: Welcome to Night Vale, ASMR

Steal the Stars

Mac Rogers—the writer behind The Message and LifeAfter—knocked it out of the park again with Steal the Stars. It follows two government employees who fall into forbidden love—and just happen to be tasked with hiding the remains of a crashed UFO. The whole series is available now, so you can binge it in one go.

Great if you enjoy: The Message, LifeAfter, The X-Files

The Big Loop

Paul Bae's latest show tells "stories of finite beings in an infinite universe," and, well, it's kind of impossible to define. But we're sure of one thing: it's absolutely excellent. The first season of the anthology show—which is ostensibly a public radio interview series—runs the gamut from ghost stories to Black Mirror-esque sci-fi parables. There's even some Lovecraftian horror tucked away in there, but you'll have to squint to see it. We can't wait for season two.

Great if you enjoy: Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone, The Black Tapes

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